Octagon Moonrise.Org

What makes Fall 2005 special?

One season in a generation, every 18.6 years, the moon rises as far north as it ever does before cycling to the south again. In the fall of 2005 an observer standing on the Observatory Mound of the Newark Earthworks will be able to gaze through the axis of the Circle and Octagon to the exact point on the horizon of this northernmost moonrise. While we do not know why the Indians 2000 years ago constructed this amazing complex of earthworks, we do know that the axis connecting the Circle and Octagon mounds will point our eyes to this once in a generation event.

Each succeeding generation has a chance to see the moon rise along the dramatic alignment from the Observatory Mound to the far opening of the
octagon. Please click here for the complete Newark Earthworks Day agenda

What is the 2005 Moonrise?

At times during 2005 and 2006, the moon rises and sets at or near its northernmost and southernmost extents along the eastern and western horizons. The northernmost moonrise is an astronomical event that occurs only once every 18.6 years and it is linked to a complicated cycle that was discovered independently by several ancient cultures. The Newark Earthworks incorporate alignments to the various moonrises and moonsets of the lunar cycle. The main axis of the Octagon Earthworks, in particular, is aligned to the northernmost rising of the moon.
For a detailed discussion of this topic, please see Astronomy

What are the Newark Earthworks?

According to archaeologist and author Chris Scarre, the Newark Earthworks are one of the 70 wonders of the ancient world. Originally, the Newark Earthworks were the largest series of mounds and earthen enclosures in the world. It was built nearly 2,000-years-ago and included two giant circles, one square, one octagonal, and one oval earthwork. The entire earthwork complex covered nearly five square miles. It was part cathedral, part cemetery, and part astronomical observatory.
For a detailed discussion of this topic, please see What are the Newark Earthworks

When is the 2005 Moonrise?

The moon rises at its northernmost point on the horizon once every
18.6 years, roughly once in a human generation. Scientists have determined that the Native Americans who built the Octagon Earthworks in Newark, Ohio, 1,800 years ago constructed them to observe this and other lunar alignments, and for other purposes.

The next time the moon rises at its northernmost point on the horizon in its 18.6 year cycle is Thursday night, September 14, 2006, at 11:09 PM (Eastern Standard Time) or 12:09 AM (Daylight Savings Time).This day and time is not conducive to public viewing at the Octagon Earthworks. But on Saturday night,October 22, 2005, at 10:13 PM, the nearly full moon will rise very close to its northernmost point, providing a spectacular experience at the Octagon Earthworks at a time more conducive for a public observance.

For a detailed scientific discussion of this topic, please see
FAQ-focus Why aren't we celebrating the northernmost rising of the moon on the precise date of this singular astronomical event?

According to a reporter writing in The Columbus Dispatch, the moonrise alignment "remains only a theory" (Monday, April 18, 2005).  Does this mean the moon might not rise along the axis of Octagon Earthworks in 2005 and 2006?

 No.  The alignment of the earthwork is a demonstrable fact of architecture that anyone can see and measure for themselves.  The alignment of the northernmost moonrise at the latitude of Newark is a well understood fact of astronomy.  There is no uncertainty about either of these facts.

The main axis of Octagon Earthworks is precisely aligned to the point on the horizon where the moon rises at its northernmost point.  The moon will appear to rise along this alignment at 12:09 AM (Daylight Savings Time) on September 14, 2006, (and on a few other dates in 2005 and 2006 please see F.A.Q. Focus). 

Therefore, the reporter's statement is factually incorrect, but it also perpetuates confusion about the nature of scientific facts and theories.  In science, a theory is not a guess or an unsubstantiated claim.  A scientific theory is a logical explanation of a natural phenomenon based on systematic observations (scientific facts).  Theories provide an explanatory framework for making sense of facts.  In other words, theories do not become facts, they explain facts.

Perhaps the reporter meant to suggest that the claim that the ancient builders of the Octagon Earthworks intentionally aligned it to the northernmost rising of the moon was in question.  Perhaps it is an accident that the Octagon is aligned to this significant astronomical event.  This is a more interesting question.  For a discussion of this issue please see, "Is it a coincidence?"

For more information about the nature of science see the following links:

The Skeptic's Dictionary:  Science


Teaching about evolution and the nature of science



How do I get to Octagon Earthworks?

Please see the Directions pages

Why did the people who built the earthworks align them to the moon?

Archaeologists are not sure why the earthworks are aligned to the complicated lunar cycle. It is much easier to show that an earthwork is aligned to an astronomical event than it is to explain why it is that way. The earthworks may have been used as astronomical observatories or the alignments may have been a way of bringing the apparent movements of the moon down to earth for ceremonial purposes. It is likely that a lunar calendar was used to determine the timing of certain religious festivals, but such a calendar would not have to be so big. The oral traditions of contemporary American Indian tribes may provide a key to answering this question.
For a detailed discussion of this subject, please see American Perspectives

Are the Octagon Earthworks open to the public?

Yes. The Octagon Earthworks are owned by the Ohio Historical Society and the site is open to the public year-round during daylight hours.
Moundbuilders Country Club leases the site and, during golf season, public access is limited to an observation platform and a public trail, but a few times a year, the entire site is made available to the general public.

What is the Hopewell culture? Is it an Indian tribe?

The "Hopewell culture" is the name archaeologists have given to the people who built the
Newark Earthworks. It is an archaeological culture defined on the basis of certain kinds of
artifacts, architecture, and cultural practices that occurred in southern and central Ohio (and other
regions of eastern North America) from about 100 B.C. to A.D. 400. The term is not the name of any American Indian tribe. We have no idea what the ancient peoples who built the great earthworks might have called themselves, but their descendants undoubtedly include many of the historic tribes who lived in the Eastern Woodlands.

The people of the Hopewell culture were farmers, fishers, hunters, and gatherers of wild plant foods.
They lived in small villages scattered along the major tributaries of the Ohio River – especially
the Great and Little Miami, the Scioto and Muskingum rivers. They are known especially for their monumental earthworks and for their spectacular art objects crafted from materials such as copper,mica, and obsidian obtained from the ends of their world.
For a detailed discussion of this topic,
please see Hopewell Culture

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